Dialing United Way’s 2-1-1 phone line puts Bay Area families in need in touch with the services that can help. Steffi Tick, a 20-year 2-1-1 call center volunteer, shares how she LIVES UNITED—assisting the growing number of local residents who are turning to 2-1-1 for help.
United Way: Why did you choose to get involved with 2-1-1?
ST: I was retired after a career that included stints with Jewish Community Services and Mission YMCA, among others, and still wanted to be active in the community.
United Way: How has the current economic crisis affected your work?
ST: There has definitely been a new type of caller, someone who wouldn’t have needed help a few years ago. Also I’m finding that people are calling with a greater number of needs.
United Way: What types of need are you hearing about the most?
ST: Rental and utility assistance calls are up, and food and shelter. Basic needs calls have definitely increased.
United Way: Are you able to help them?
ST: There is nothing better than that deep contented sigh when you’ve given someone a solid referral, or given them the tools they need to begin righting themselves. But sometimes the services are oversubscribed—so many people need help and there is a limited amount of funding.
United Way: What happens then?
ST: Usually as part of our intake we ask a lot of questions, and this can help us find other areas where we may be able to help. So even if we can’t find rental assistance for instance, we may be able to save callers money on child care, food, utilities or medical expenses. This frees up some money, which they can then use for something else.
United Way: In your position on the frontlines, I’m sure you’ve heard some horror stories.
ST: It’s amazing how resilient people are. After telling me their struggles, and their frustrations dealing with the bureaucracy, false starts and all that they must be going through—they stay positive. They want help to come up with appropriate strategies. Often times they’ll say, ‘You’re the first person who’s talked to me like a human being.’